Of grave concern to people monitoring the plunder cases against public officials is the Oct. 21 Inquirer report: “SC stops GMA plunder trial.” The Supreme Court stopped the Sandiganbayan from further hearing the plunder case against former president Gloria Arroyo on the petition of her lawyers who disagreed with the Sandiganbayan’s denial of their petition for the dismissal of a case against her upon a “demurrer to the evidence” (a plea suggesting that the prosecution failed to prove its case against the accused).
From discussions among lawyers, we gathered that normally the Supreme Court does not entertain petitions of that nature. Since it is not a “trier of facts,” it defers to the sound discretion of the trial court receiving the evidence. The Supreme Court simply has no time to go deep into every piece of evidence so far produced against the accused in a trial that is not over yet! It prefers to review the case only after the trial is finished, after a judgment is rendered and appealed to it in case of conviction. Only then can it buckle down to determine whether guilt has been proved beyond reasonable doubt.
But then again, that Court has really become unpredictable. It can rule any way it wants, even in total disregard of “well-settled jurisprudence”! In that sense, it is really “supreme,” ruled by “gods” whose whims become “part of the law of the land”!
The Arroyo-appointed justices are still very much around and they may constitute a majority in any division of the Supreme Court. People cannot help asking: Is it payback time?
It is worth noting that when that Court ignored the Sandiganbayan, which was still trying the plunder case against Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, and granted him bail, it cited grounds outside what his lawyers used as arguments! On its own and against all expectations, it cited “humanitarian” grounds to set him free! Pati mga abogado ni Enrile nagulat kuno! Understandably so, because those are really not valid grounds to grant bail!
So, in the case of Arroyo, will the Supreme Court cite the United Nations’ report to set her free, too?
—JEREMIAS H. TOBIAS, firstname.lastname@example.org
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